Let it Burn!: A Searing Perspective

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 I whole-heartedly and unequivocally believe that “flag burning”, also termed as “flag desecration” should be constitutional and protected under the first Amendment.
          I agree with the decision of the Court in Texas v. Johnson and hail Justice Kennedy for stating that “the hard fact is that sometimes we must make decisions we do not like. We make them because they are right, right in the sense that the law and the Constitution, as we see them, compel the result.” This leads me to believe that even though burning a flag goes against their morals, they made the decision objectively and without bias in order to protect our constitutional rights.
          Many people would object this ruling. Justice Stevens, in dissenting, states that “the Court is . . . quite wrong in blandly asserting that respondent ‘was prosecuted for his expression of dissatisfaction with the policies of this country. . .'”. My belief is that Johnson WAS prosecuted for having an unpopular opinion that was stated in a very controversial way.
          “Flag burning”, in my opinion, is a way for one to show extreme displeasure and disenchantment with the federal government, and a way to protest and object to what may seem like oppression of an unjust law enforced by the aforementioned. When one is so passionately dissatisfied with the government, laws and/or the state of the nation, one would try with all their might to get the situation remedied for the country to work better as a whole. The Smith Act makes it illegal to try to change things by violence or force. The way to change problems is through actions that are constitutional and peaceful in nature, but for those that are so disenchanted with the government, this would seem improbable and impractical.
          The best way to show one’s dissatisfaction with the government is to show it in a controversial way, i.e. political art, “flag burning”, etc. Protesting in an unnoticeable way might as well be the same as not protesting at all. It may anger many, but in burning a flag, others will take notice.
          Many would say that burning a flag is wrong because it stands for freedom. Especially in time of war and in the wake 9/11/01, the American flag serves as a symbol of self-injected patriotism. To some loved ones who have lost family in wartime, the flag stands for the sacrifice they had to pay for the cost of freedom. To others immediately affected, the flag could stand for the unnecessary deaths of soldiers in the name of “oil” and greedy power. To some, not only in other countries, but here as well (i.e. Native Americans and other victims of oppression); the American flag can be a symbol of tyranny and genocide. Still others, in an act of “faux” annual patriotism will go to the store in the beginning of every July to buy things with the American flag plastered to every surface. These are the same individuals that will dab their barbeque-stained mouths with “flag” designed napkins purchased especially for the Fourth of July. Then they mindlessly toss the soiled napkins in the trash, all the while pointing a bony accusational finger reminiscent of the famous “witch trials” of the late 1600’s.
          In actuality, a flag is burned by protestors because it is meant as a symbol of the government. The perfect example of this meaning lies within the pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands. . . “The “Republic” makes reference to the form of government that the US is supposed to have. (Notice that it was not stated as “democracy”. The country was not founded as such, but as a republic, which is a form of government in which the power lies within the people, and the law is meant as a way to keep the government in check.)
          In addition, the flag is not only burned by protestors. They are also burned by such organizations as the Rotary Club and the Boy Scouts in a symbolic act of retiring the flags. The military will also burn a flag if it touches the ground.
          In a pubic act of protest, a very well known individual by the name of Dread Scott was arrested for burning a flag in front of the US capitol. Later, Dread designed an art piece called “What is the Proper Way to Display a US Flag?” This work incorporated a US flag on the floor below a journal on a shelf. In order to write down any opinion in the journal, one had to literally walk across the flag. Some individuals in their self-righteous ignorance would make vehement accusations of being un-American in the journal. These individuals, in a frantic desire to point accusational fingers would walk on the flag. Hypocrisy at its finest, I’m sure.
          In reflecting, I feel that it should not only be constitutional to burn a flag. I feel that it should be considered patriotic in a sense. These protestors are individuals with the courage to look upon the governing body and the laws and acknowledge that there is a problem that needs to be fixed. They are willing to put their opinions forth, no matter how unpopular, in a way that will call attention to the problem in a desire to see it remedied.


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